Development of Urbanization

3539 words (14 pages) Essay in History

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General overview of the subject:

Through most of the human history, the human beings have lived rural areas for most of the human history, human beings depended on agricultural activities and hunting in order to survive. In 1800, only 3 percent of the world’s population lived in cities or urban areas. After one century, in 1900, about 14 percent of the world population were living in urban areas, although at that time only 12 cities had 1 million or more inhabitants. The increase of the urban citizens has continued in the industrial world until 1950, 30 percent of the world’s population resided in urban centres. The number of cities with over 1 million people had grown to 83, Champion, A (1989).

Urbanization definition:

Refers to the process of increasing proportion of an entire population lives in cities and the suburbs of cities. Historically, it has been closely linked with the industrial revolution where more people started moving to the cities in order to find jobs. This has happened,when more and more sources of energy were used to enhance and increase human productivity or industrialization, surpluses increased in both agriculture and industry. Larger and larger proportions of a population could live in cities. Economic forces were such that cities became the ideal places to locate factories and their workers.

Counter urbanization: we are witnessing an anti-urbanization movement at the time beings people are trying to escape from living in the centres of large cities and escaping to outside the cities, this is creating mega cities and metropolitan regions.

Counter urbanization trends:

Counter urbanization in the UK in the 1980s

Evidence from previous studies done by several research bodies including DEFRA (the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) highlights an increasing decline in population in large urban areas and main cities while an increase in population in rural areas, Evans, A & Eversely, D(1980). Between 1981 and 1991, the population of the capital city of London and the metropolitan districts that surround London fell by approximately 903,000, whilst the population of the rest of England and Wales increased by approximately 846,000, Breheny and Rockwood, 1993), this information refers clearly to the fact that people are moving away from main cities.

The population dispersal trends between 1981 and 1991 are a continuation of trends over a longer time of 50 years or more, Fothergill, S & Gudgin, G (1982); this big movement from cities has started after the Second World War. Rural areas and small cities have experienced the highest population increases in percentage points and absolute terms. These changes in the number of the residents of rural areas have been accompanied by shifts in employment, retailing and economic structure but evidence suggests that the dispersal is associated with new ways of transportation such as fewer journeys by foot or bicycle and the increased reliance on private transport; people want to release themselves from the stress of travelling by tubes and buses inside big cities. Travel distance by trains in rural areas is more than 50 per cent higher than in large metropolitan areas, whilst travel distance by foot in rural areas is below half that in metropolitan areas.

Counter urbanization in the UK in the 1990s:

In the 1990s, the European and especially the British cities appear to be developing in a very complex ways, which make it harder to predict and plan urban and rural economic and social development programmers, there are contradictory and confusing results from the data that have been published by the European government.

Much of the difficulty of the data, which are related to population growth, lies in the variation of population growth in different cities and different rural regions.

Information about capital cities such as London indicate that there is continued growth of major-urban regions, particularly around the big cities such as London, Paris and Berlin, this expansion has been mainly caused by immigration, Stillwell, J . Rees, P & Boden, P (1992)

In the UK for example, the South East is the fastest growing region in the country.

The same data also indicate that there is a major and continued geographical dispersal from the most heavily populated areas, which form the heart of these regions, including most of the capital cities such as London, Paris, Berlin, Copenhagen, with the most major counter urbanization happening where urban counter urbanization is driven by a major decline in the industrial production and the losses of major city jobs to rural areas such as Northampton.

The major winners of this change are smaller cities and semi-urban areas within the outer parts of the same regions, which have been among the fastest growing urban

Areas in Europe; in the very largest and densest urban regions (London,

Randstad Holland), there is a process of long-distance counter-urbanization from the major capital cities to medium-sized cities in the surrounding rural areas.

This shift is causing a rapid increase in the size of the Greater cities such as Greater London and Greater Paris while there is a clear trend of decline in the number of people who are living in the central parts of the city, Cameron, C (1980).

Change in Land use in the UK:

The urban exodus of the population and its economic activities has caused a substantial increase in pressure and urgency to develop semi-urban land. More than half of the area that the government has used in order to develop new housing projects was developed on Greenfield land in 1985. Whereas just under 40 per cent of the area of new housing was built on Greenfield land in 1994.

The substantial increase in the use of Greenfield land continues to rise although it is still a smaller proportion of total land used. The use of Greenfield land could also increase more if the supply of abandoned land or Brownfield land falls.

Government statistics show that the increase in the Greenfield land could be well beyond the government expectations because the increase in the use of Greenfield land will not be exclusively for housing; building houses will require building power stations, refineries, factories, roads and other facilities that are required in order to make life possible in the new housing centres.

The government want the number of new households to increase by 4.4 million by 2016, Rural Development Commission (1998).

The HM is addressing the problem by giving the following prediction: if we assume that 40 per cent of these newly-built houses are built on Greenfield sites at a gross density of 40 houses per hectare (which is well above the average local authority density standard reported by Breheny and Archer, 1998), 44,000 hectares of Greenfield land will be required (equivalent to 1,760 hectares per year). A similar amount of land may be required to accommodate the development of industry, commerce and transport infrastructure, HM Government (1996)

The increase in the number of houses in small and semi-urban towns and some villages can create opportunities; this urban exodus could help develop rural areas which have suffered from economic decline for a long-time or suffered from a prolonged population imbalances such as the number of males is bigger than the number of females or the number of elderly is bigger than the number of young people this type of socio-economic structural problems could be solved by the new use of land; meeting the needs of the British People by building affordable housing in rural areas could encourage many young people to choose to live in rural areas where they can work and create value to the local economy of that area; and, if the government could carefully plan these local economies by providing schools and hospitals, the employment rate will increase and there would be a better quality of life for all the citizens of that area.

The impact on employment:

The continuing decline of the industrial sector and the rise in the service sector made the service sector dominate the economy and demand skills and expertise very different to those demanded of an industrial economy.

The service sector has created job opportunities in a different urban and rural locations.

There is now greater choice in terms of workplace locations, the service sector has improved the quality of life to the people who choose to live outside big cities, the service sector is providing its employees with spacious car parks, huge shopping centers, cheaper prices and good quality of air and high standard of living

One consequence has been the depletion of those industries and services that were once the cornerstone of urban living.

The city centre is not the only place where people get jobs and buy their essentials in the same time longer, Massey,D & Meegan, R(1982).

The end of the dominance of the city centre has caused important economic consequences known as “centralization of services”

Companies and governments are trying to concentrate their services in the city in few places in order to increase the efficiency of their investments.

This is very noticeable in the retail sector; for example, Tesco has concentrated most of its stores in major places in the city.

This increased concentration by big companies has caused a decline of competition because small retailers are not able to compete on an equal footing with big retailers.

The impact of the urban exodus on the economic activity in the city:

The evolving development of out-of-town shopping centres and retail parks has increased the demand to the use of green field land and has also contributed to the noticeable decline of major city centres.

Large out of town retail centres covered an estimated 1.4 million square metres in 1985 and almost 4.7 million square metres by the end of 1990, representing more than a three-fold increase in 5 years (Department of the Environment, 1996).

Even when the general growth in the economic activity was slower the increase in out of town development has continued although the industrial output continued to drop for reasons related to the lack of competitiveness of Britain compared to India and china W. Lever (1987).

The government is finding itself obliged to build more hospitals, schools and public transport as a result of this exodus from the city.

The single most important fact here is the how to predict the expansion of the metropolitan cities and the new semi-urban regions in order to start providing the infrastructure for the citizens.

In a society where people are trying to work less hours, the government will find it extremely difficult to provide the infrastructure and the services that the people need to live in the new regions.

Postindustrial thinkers argue that since the end of Second World War there has been a major shift in the values of most of the industrial world towards peaceful coexistence and understanding of the notion of the life and appreciating this virtue.

These postindustrial values of peace, freedom, creativity, coexistence, belonging, and democracy.

The old values of the past which depended on materialism and political extremism in order to control markets, occupy countries and sell products overseas has finished now and has been replaced by more noble values, embraced by dynamic populations who want to live away from the materialist values of the big cities, the people of Britain today want to live the emotional side of the live and become more passionate

This is the value of the post-industrialization in the British and the European societies, Fielding, A(1982).

The other side of the argument says that the government might be right in reducing the deindustrialization in the UK because some areas are losing their ability to recreate their economic power in creating values the transition is better if it is slow, R. Martin & B Rowthorn(1986)

Economic growth and immigration:

Controlled immigration is the only way to help economic growth and social coherence in the society.

Immigration could have a positive economic impact but it may cause social unrest if immigrants did not blend into the society, P. Boyle, K. Halfacree and V. Robinson(1998)

The impact of the change in land use on the British energy sector:

Energy supply is one of the fundamental issues that determine the competitiveness of the British economy; the change in land use will change the consumption of energy in the UK. Generally, Britain is heavily dependent on fossil fuels, which are CO2 intensive fuels and the source of theses fuels is outside the UK, the increasing consumption of the fossil fuel indicates to the increasing depletion of non-renewable resources and the emissions of greenhouse gases, which is the major pollutant associated with the combustion of fossil fuels (such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxides). Statistics refer to the fact that the UK energy consumption per capita remained fairly constant in the last ten years, Energy consumption in the industry and commerce sectors decreased because of the contraction of the industrial activity in the UK, whilst domestic energy consumption per capita remained fairly constant. At the same time, energy consumption in the transport sector increased. The transport sector is now considered to be the largest and fastest increasing consumer of energy, this is due principally to the increase in travel distances resulting from the change in the land use in Britain, the growth in long-distance road and air transport and the decline in sustainable ways of transportation such as walking and cycling has affected the energy consumption, this has made the cost of travelling by trains very expensive.

Regarding using cars, the UK is constantly changing the legislations regarding vehicle engines in order to make them more energy-efficient by using improved fuels such as unleaded petrol, catalytic converters and higher specifications and performance which is tended to counter the fuel efficiency gains from improved engine design. These factors, together with a fall in the average numbers of passengers per car and a fall in bus use, caused a reduction in the overall fuel efficiency of long-distance road passenger transport.

The change of land use resulting from urban exodus is causing an increase in the usage of fossil fuels because transportation is increasingly becoming between more distant places, this has a negative effect on the competitiveness of the British Economy.

The impact of change of land use on the composition of the labour force:

Women are finding it extremely difficult to live in crowded cities, women think that there is a continuous deterioration in the standard of life in big cities; the increasing crime in major cities is being viewed as a threatening environment to women and children. The exodus of workingwomen from big cities is linked to women’s inability to deal with violent environment that has been caused by the inability of the citizens to live side by side with each other in urban places.

Stress also is a major driver for the exodus of women from big cities for example the delay that is caused by broken lifts and crowded streets is considered a major cause of women urban exodus.

Women also tend to see big cities as dirty and unhealthy; women do not like litter, cracked pavements, and polluted air.

Racism against women in big cities is a major cause of women exodus from urban areas, the current work environment in big cities is very competitive and women are reported to be the victim of this competition, Lever, W & Bailly, A(1996).

The impact of counter urbanization on families and spatial dynamics:

The family is the basic cell in the society, the family n its own is an economy cell; in each family there are producers and consumers, having a family could be an incentive to produce and be more productive, the deindustrialization and the preferences to live longer time without bringing children could have a negative impact on the wealth of the society if no other forms of economic growth has been enhanced Crafts, N (1993)

Counter urbanization has an impact on the family and in turn on the whole economy.

The shape of the family is more dynamic and fluid than ever before, members of the families do not live together for a long time as they used to do before

The UK has a diverse family patterns and structures,

Family life also has a strong spatial dynamics, fathers and mothers prefer to live in rural or semi-urban places once they get a job opportunity outside the city or once they retire while their children prefer to stay in the city because they do not feel the stress that the fathers and mothers feel and because they enjoy the buzz of the city.

This has a big economic impact on the economics of cities and rural areas.

Cities are getting crowded with young enthusiastic people who are ready to do anything possible in order to build their lives while the rural or semi-urban regions are getting more middle age and old man and women, this makes the rural areas less productive, Hausner, V (1985).

The break of the families put an increasing pressure on the transportation system because young people prefer to travel in the weekend and the public holidays to see their parents in the rural and semi-urban regions, this will mean building more roads and causing pollution and increase in the energy use in the country.

Conclusion: the government will have a difficult task in planning and funding new housing and new infrastructure in rural and semi-urban areas, the societies of the Western World are aging and old people prefer to live in the countryside which makes them less-productive because they do not utilise their full potential after the age of sixty although they are able to work more hours.

The government is trying to compensate that by allowing immigrants to the UK in order to work and create value, the number of immigrants to the UK is bigger than the number of new British born children, Champion, T Fotheringham, S (1998)

The government should encourage immigrant to live where they can create value to the British economy, immigration has benefited Britain in creating economically active metropolitan cities such as London, Goddard, J & Champion, A (1983).

This is making a skills gap in the big cities; there is more unskilled labour in the cities than skilled labour, London has lost 212,000 jobs between 1981 and 1996 while the rest of the south east has gained 556,000 jobs, Turok & Edge (1999).

In my opinion the government should direct the people to reside in areas that have the potential to develop because not all areas have the same chances of growth, Allen, J Massey, D, Cochrane, A , Charlesworth,J, Court, G, Henry,N and Sarre, P(1998)


  1. Allen, J Massey, D, Cochrane, A , Charlesworth,J, Court, G, Henry,N and Sarre, P(1998): Rethinking the Region.
  2. Breheny M. (1992). Towards Sustainable Urban Development. In: Mannion, A.M. and Bowlby, S.R. (eds.) Environmental Issues in the 1990s . John Wiley and Sons Ltd., London. pp. 277-290.
  3. C.M. Law British Regional Development since World War I
  4. Cameron, C(1980): The Future of the British Conurbations.
  5. Champion, A (1989): Counter urbanization: The Changing Pace and Nature of Population De-concentration
  6. Champion, T Fotheringham, S? (1998): The Determinants of Migration Flows in England, the office of the deputy prime minister.
  7. Craft, N(1993): Can De-industrialisation Seriously Damage Your Wealth? Institute of Economic Affairs Hobart Paper 120, 1993.
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  9. Fielding, A(1982): Counter urbanisation in Western Europe, Progress in Planning Vol. 17, 1982
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  11. Goddard, J & Champion, A (1983): The Urban and Regional Transformation of Britain.
  12. Hausner, V(1985): Critical Issues in Urban Economic Development.
  13. HM Government (1996): Household Growth: Where Shall We Live?
  14. Lever, W & Bailly, A(1996): The Spatial Impact of Economic Changes in Europe.
  15. Massey,D & Meegan, R(1982): The Anatomy of Job Loss.
  16. P. Boyle, K. Halfacree and V. Robinson (1998): Exploring Contemporary Migration.
  17. R. Martin & B Rowthorn(1986): The Geography of Deindustrialisation.
  18. Rural Development Commission (1998): Memorandum by the Rural Development Commission (H54) the United Kingdom Parliament.
  19. Stillwell, J. Rees, P & Boden, P (1992): Migration Processes and Patterns, Volume 2: Population Redistribution in the U. K.
  20. Turok & Edge (1999): The jobs gap in Britain’s cities.
  21. W. Lever(1987): Industrial Change in the United Kingdom.

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